April 26, 2013

How to buy sustainable cod

It’s perilous buying cod nowadays. You don’t want to endanger the poor old cod, but damn it’s tasty! We put together this infographic at Great British Chefs to help you buy sustainable cod. I think it looks pretty nifty even if I do say so myself!

How to buy sustainable cod
Infographic courtesy of Great British Chefs

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April 8, 2013

Braised lamb tortellini with pea purée

Lamb tortellini with pea puree

I’ve had another hiatus on the blog-writing front recently but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been cooking! I’ve been coming up with some of my own dishes over the past few couple of months which I feel is quite a big improvement. Thinking back 12 months I was slavishly following recipe books, now I’m thinking up recipes and have got the techniques to make them real!  Here’s something I’ve cooked a couple of times now that went down a treat at the weekend.

INGREDIENTS

Braised lamb
2 lamb neck fillets, approx 300 grams in total
300ml red wine
1 sprig rosemary
3 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
6 white peppercorns
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 sprig rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
5 large mint leaves, very finely chopped
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Pasta
250g pasta dough
3 egg yolks
1 egg
Olive oil
Salt
1 pinch saffron
50ml hot water
1 egg, beaten

Pea purée
500g frozen peas
150ml double cream
½ lemon, juiced
Salt
Pepper

Garnish
50g Pea shoots
Olive oil
100g Parmesan cheese

Serves 6
Cooking time 3 hours 30 minutes

1. Preheat the oven to 150C. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and seal the lamb fillets, turning until they are lightly browned on all sides.

Sealing lamb fillets

2. Remove from the frying pan and place in a deep casserole dish along with the red wine, sprig of rosemary, sage leaves, bay leaf and peppercorns. Cover and cook in the oven for 3 hours.

Braised lamb pot

3. For the puree, cook the peas in a pan of salted water for 5-6 minutes until soft. Drain, place in a blender and blend on high speed, slowly adding the cream until the mixture becomes very smooth. Continue to blend, adding the lemon juice and seasoning with a pinch of salt and pepper.

4. Pass the puree through a fine sieve, using the back of a spoon to push it through. You should end up with a smooth, emulsified puree with no pea skin. Set aside.

5. Next move onto the pasta dough. Place the pinch of saffron threads in 100ml boiled water to infuse. Place the flour, olive oil and a pinch of salt in a blender and blend slowly, Add the egg yolks and egg, before slowly adding the saffron water, pouring it through a sieve to make sure you don’t add any saffron threads.

6. Remove from the blender and knead in a bowl until completely combined, adding extra water if too dry or flour if too wet. Good pasta dough should not stick to your hands. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

7. About 15 minutes before the lamb finishes cooking, heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over a low-medium heat and sweat the shallots until very soft but not coloured. Add the red wine vinegar, turn up the heat slightly and boil until almost evaporated. Remove the pan from the heat.

8. Take the lamb out of the oven. In a large mixing bowl shred the meat using a knife and fork – it should be tender and come apart very easily. Add the shallots, finely chopped rosemary and the chopped mint and mix well. Season to taste and set aside.

Lamb and red onion mixture

9. Using a pasta machine, roll 2 small balls of pasta dough to a thickness of 1mm onto a well-floured surface. Place generous teaspoons of the lamb and shallot mixture onto one of the sheets of pasta leaving approx 7-8cm gaps in between. Use a pastry brush to spread egg wash around each pile of lamb mixture.

10. Carefully place the second sheet of pasta over the first and press down around the lamb. The egg wash will act as a glue. Use a 5cm diameter pastry cutter or biscuit cutter to cut out round tortellini. As you pick each one up lightly press around the edges to ensure a tight seal. Repeat until you have 18 tortellini.

Tortellini

11. Reheat your puree in a pan over a low heat. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the tortellini and cook for 4-5 minutes, until they are cooked but not floppy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen towel to drain.

12. In a bowl, lightly dress the pea shoots with olive oil. On heated plates, spoon 2 tbsp of pea puree and spread into a circle. Place 3 tortellini on to the puree and place three pea shoots around the circle. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese to serve.

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March 16, 2013

Flat Iron Steak, Soho

Flat Iron Steak, Beak Street. Picture courtesy of www.3badmice.com

I’m in agreement with Giles Coren that it’s generally a bit of a waste of time to order steak at a restaurant. It’s the easiest thing to cook at home, and there’s not much that a chef can do with it that you wouldn’t be able to rustle up in fifteen minutes yourself. That hasn’t stopped the rise in recent years of the steak house as a resurgent culinary trend, with the Gaucho and Hawksmoor chains proving popular throughout the capital and even Marco Pierre White trying to get in on the act, with disastrous results. I’m saving that review for a particularly bad Monday.

Flat Iron Steak in London’s Soho is achingly on-trend. A former pop-up that has found a permanent home a few doors along from Polpo, the interior is all exposed brick work and wooden fittings. There are no bookings, tables are shared with other diners and the menu takes reductionism to the extreme: one cut of steak (the Flat Iron, if you hadn’t guessed) is the only choice. There are six sides, four sauces, a side helping of salad and a few puddings. Eschewing centuries of received wisdom there are no knives, just a big cleaver with which to cut your meat.

We ordered, unsurprisingly, the steak. It was cooked well, not the best I’ve ever tasted but the texture was smooth – flat iron cuts are from the shoulder of the cow and so can be a bit tougher, but ours was cooked rare and melted in the mouth just as steak should. I opted for peppercorn sauce and a tasty roast aubergine gratin. It came served with a little glass of watercress, and we washed it down with Bethnal Green Pale Ale. It was a good meal and reasonable on the wallet: £10 for the steak, £4 for the side, so about £20 in total including drinks. Service was friendly and professional.

My only amazement is that Flat Iron has quite the reputation it does. In advance of our visit many spoke of it in hushed tones; queues can apparently be round the block, although we arrived at 6 and were seated without a problem. It is what it is: an enjoyable, affordable steak served with minimum of fuss.

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March 1, 2013

Grey mullet with jerusalem artichoke purée, roast garlic and red wine jus

Grey mullet

 

February saw us hosting a Great British Chefs supper club, which involved myself, Ollie and Mex from GBC cooking for 11 of the best food bloggers in the UK, to say thanks for their work for us and support throughout the past year. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I’ve never cooked individual plates of food for that many people before, relying on one pots or curries to feed large numbers, and one area of my cooking that I needed to improve is getting plates of food out hot. It’s something I’ve sometimes struggled with cooking for four people, let alone fourteen!

I chose a sea bass recipe from the GBC site, so if you want to try it yourself you can find the recipe here. For the fish I spoke to the incredibly helpful Richard at the Fin and Flounder fishmongers, who was struggling to get wild sea bass but recommended grey mullet as a substitute. Coming fresh from Cornwall the wild fish are caught further out at sea which gives them a superior texture and flavour, while the fillets were absolutely enormous! There was easily enough to feed four people with one fish, making them really economical. It’s not the sort of thing you’re likely to pick up at the supermarket but if you do have a good fishmonger I’d highly recommend asking them to get some for you.

I made the purée the night before, which was incredibly creamy. The red wine jus I made during the day and, with the help of Eliot our in-house chef, simmered down to a really nice consistency for a thick jus that wasn’t too watery.  Flagelot and butter beans were simple enough to heat through with a bit more cream, garlic roasted in the oven and reheated at the last minute, and a few chopped sun dried tomatoes and some wilted rocket gave the dish some colour. Then it was just onto frying 14 pieces of fish!

The main tips I got from Eliot were to get the pan really hot, use more oil than you might think necessary, lightly press the fish down as it goes into the pan, and then leave it for at least a couple of minutes before you move it around. This worked a treat and meant I got a really nice crisp, golden skin which didn’t stick to the pan. To make sure it was all warm I didn’t turn the fillets over but just preheated the oven and finished them off in there for a few minutes before serving.

I’m really enjoying cooking fish at the moment, and feel I’ve got the fillet/purée/sides style dishes working pretty well as you can prepare so much in advance. There are plenty of recipes in that vein on the Great British Chefs site so have a look if you want to give it a try.

Picture courtesy of Jeanne at www.cooksister.com who came along for the evening!

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February 26, 2013

Review of Bistro Bruno Loubet, Clerkenwell

I’ve reviewed Bistro Bruno Loubet for the Great British Chefs website. My verdict? Well I’m not posting the full review twice but you can find it at http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/bistro-bruno-loubet-review

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February 25, 2013

Horses for Courses – Everything you need to know about horse cuisine

We’ve been working on this Infographic at Great British Chefs for a couple of weeks… dried horse rectum for dinner, anyone?


Horses for Courses - everything you need to know about horse meat

Infographic courtesy of Great British Chefs

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October 10, 2012

Great British Chefs guide to Michelin 2013

We just made this fun infographic at work this week, so I thought I’d share it. It makes me think I really need to get over to Bray and try to fit in all four starred restaurants there in one weekend!

Great British Chefs guide to Michelin 2013 – An infographic by the team at Great British Chefs

 

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September 30, 2012

Pintade Cocotte Grand-Mère

Pintade Cocotte Grand Mere

Pintade Cocotte Grand Mere

Autumn is a great time for seasonal ingredients – the Ginger Pig in Victoria Park had partridge, pheasant and venison and guinea fowl in stock this weekend. We opted for the guinea fowl so I pulled out the trusty Cordon Bleu book and found a nice looking recipe for Pintade Cocotte Grand Mère, which translates as Pot Roast Guinea Fowl with Potatoes, Mushrooms and Bacon. Garniture Grand Mère is the name of the vegetable mixture, hence the French name for the dish.

It was relatively simple – mushrooms peeled and quartered, bacon lardons blanched, pearl onions peeled and potatoes turned into slightly imperfect cocottes, which was a bit time consuming and could easily be just cut into 2cm cubes. Bay leaf, apple and thyme went inside the guinea fowl which I then browned  on all sides in some oil before roasting in the pot for 15 minutes, then adding the vegetables and bacon to the pot and into the oven for another 30.

Once it came out I poured the fat off, browned the cooking juices, deglazed with white wine and then poured in some veal stock (brought back from our French holiday, hard to find here but available from Frenchclick). This reduced and thickened a bit, and then I strained through a sieve before whisking in some butter. To serve, the veg garniture went back into the pot mixed with some chopped parsley, sauce poured over it and the bird placed on top. A delicious autumnal Sunday lunch – Google have scanned the recipe here and I’d highly recommend it while guinea fowl is in season.

 

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September 2, 2012

Dinner at Trinity, Clapham 25.8.12

OK I’m going to have a go at my first restaurant ‘review’, and what better place to start than one of my favourite restaurants in London – Clapham’s Trinity.

While programmes like Master Chef and Great British Menu have played a large part in the increase in popularity and admiration for innovative, modern cuisine, I still sense there remains a feeling with many that ‘fine’ dining is either stuffy, overly posh, a rip off, or at worst all three.

Trinity proves that this isn’t the case, and one of the reasons we’ve been back three times now is that I really believe it gets all aspects right: fantastic modern British food from head chef Adam Byatt, with friendly service in a relaxed atmosphere that manages to feel sophisticated without being pretentious.

While it is more pricey than your local gastro pub or Italian joint, the tasting menus – £40 for 5 courses or £55 for 7, including water, bread, canapes and petit fours – definitely aren’t eye watering and if you take it easy on the booze you can keep the bill from getting too expensive. So, if you haven’t done much in the way of ‘fancy’ meals in the past, head here for an introduction to tasting menu dining or for a special occasion. If you have and Trinity hasn’t popped up on your radar yet, make plans to visit soon – it has three AA Rosettes and on the evidence of some of the dishes we had last Saturday could be heading for a Michelin star.

Anyway, onto the food. We went for a 7 courser as it was my birthday meal, and, well… why not?

First up was sweetcorn soup with a ‘scotch egg’ – actually quails egg surrounded by breaded cod. This was a nice fresh, summery starter with hints of kedgeree in the combination of seafood, a creamy soup and the egg.

Sweetcorn soup - Trinity, Clapham

Next up, scallop ceviche with gooseberry pickle and charred cucumber. Delicious scallops (ever present on tasting menus), combined with little green cubes of jellied pickle with the few dill leaves complementing the flavours beautifully. Nice presentation too.

Scallop ceviche at Trinity, Clapham

The next dish on the menu was cryptically titled  ‘Of the season’. What we got was some form of Spanish pork product – I can’t remember the name – but essentially it was salted and compressed fat, so no ham, just a very thin layer of incredibly tasty fat served on a bread crisp with girolle mushrooms (again a fixture on tasting menus), shallots and a truffle emulsion. The smell of truffle coming off the plate was immense, the salty fat perfect with the mushrooms and this was probably my favourite plate of the night – Michelin star standard without a doubt.

Of the season - Trinity, Clapham

Following this there was a little bit of a wait for our next course of cod with cauliflower, cockles, capers and raisins. If there was anything to fault about the evening it was that the service was a touch slow when the restaurant was full over the first 3-4 courses, but it was all delivered in such a friendly manner it was hard to begrudge. The cod was well cooked with crisp, salty skin, the charred cauliflower probably the star of this dish, the raisins and capers unusual partners but complemented it all well, finished off with a fresh, fishy cockle or two.

Cod and cockles - Trinity, Clapham

The next course – Clarence Court egg with malt crumbs, sweet potato crisps (we think), a huge bouquet of parsley and hay mayonnaise was slightly weird, and it felt oddly placed in the menu between the fish and the meat courses. I’ve been reliably informed by our in-house chef at Great British Chefs that it is ‘very Noma’, which is all well and good but the texture and flavours were all a bit too earthy for me.

Clarence court egg - Trinity, Clapham

Next up – the beef! A beautifully smoked piece of beef fillet, braised ox cheek on a sorrel mayonnaise. This was a delicious, well balanced dish with a delicately cooked piece of meat that melted in the mouth.

Beef fillet - Trinity, Clapham

Finally onto the desserts, which the kitchen kindly replaced due to the tasting menu’s having nuts in it (my girlfriend has a nut allergy). I had (I think) a gooseberry soufflé – sorry, can’t remember exactly which fruit as it’s a week on and it isn’t on a la carte menu on the Trinity website! What I do remember is it was a perfectly risen and complemented by a small scoop of ice cream – not the sweetest of desserts but just the right side of earthy for me. The other was an ‘English strawberry pavlova’, a big ball of meringue that had to be cracked like an egg, revealing lots of cream and strawberries much like an Eton mess. And you can’t go wrong with an Eton mess.

Souffle - Trinity, Clapham

English pavlova - Trinity, Clapham

Wines were reasonable – plenty of bottles under £30, and a good selection available by the glass or carafe. As I said at the start, I was a convert already and there are good reasons Trinity has become a regular haunt. It’ll be hard to resist the temptation to head back the next time the menu changes.

 

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August 28, 2012

Bavarois Rubané

Bavarois Rubané

OK first of the backlog – this was a dessert that I made for a dinner party back in April. Bavarois translates a ‘Bavarian cream’, and is made by first creating a crème Anglaise – infusing milk with vanilla and combining with egg yolks and sugar, adding gelatin to set. The crème is then divided into three; one third is mixed with dark chocolate, another with coffee essence and the third stays vanilla flavoured. A good 400mls of whipping cream is then whipped and again divided by three and combined with the flavoured crèmes.

The vanilla mixture is then poured into a charlotte mould and put in the fridge to set before the coffee layer is put on top, allowed to set again and then finally the chocolate mixture, and then I left the whole thing to rest overnight. To serve I just made a crème Chantilly, adding icing sugar to whipping cream and piping on top, and shaved some dark chocolate over it with a peeler.

My only disappointment with this was that, in following the instructions, I held the Bavarois in warm water to loosen it from the charlotte mould but it meant that it melted and actually started to run down the sides, so it doesn’t look like the picture in the book which definitely doesn’t have runny bits of vanilla Bavarois trickling from the top. But it was an impressive centre piece dessert and everyone seemed to enjoy it, including my vegetarian friend Katy…  I didn’t even twig about the gelatin until we were half way through it. I’m SO sorry Katy!

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